In late August, a new 40,000 sq. ft. medical and dental clinic along the busy Aurora Avenue traffic corridor in Shoreline, the first non-profit health center in the city’s history—will open for business.
The clinic, developed by International Community Health Services (ICHS), has been awaited by city officials, residents, and local service providers who have advocated for a quality integrated health care facility to serve the substantial Asian Pacific Islanders (API) and underserved populations living in the area.
The four-story structure, designed by Miller Hayashi Architects, includes 18 medical exam rooms, two special procedure rooms, 10 dental operatories, a medical laboratory, pharmacy, two exhibition galleries, three community meeting rooms, an outdoor reflection garden and 71 parking spaces.
The building is located at 16549 Aurora Avenue North, on the former site of a restaurant. The vacant restaurant was demolished in August, 2012. Construction began in May 2013 and is expected to be complete in several weeks.
“It’s going to help revitalize the whole area,” said Duane Wald, construction representative for ICHS. “It’s a beautiful building.”
Wald, who lives four blocks from the clinic, explained that since the start of construction of the ICHS clinic, several other new businesses have moved into the area. “Us moving here has encouraged others to do it, too,” Wald said.
Established in Seattle in 1973, ICHS is the largest API health care provider in the state, last year serving over 19,000 unduplicated patients from King, Snohomish, and Pierce Counties. Health care is provided in over 50 different languages, making the agency one of the most diverse community clinics in the nation.
ICHS currently provides care at six sites. It operates medical-dental clinics in Seattle’s International District and Holly Park neighborhoods, a school-based health center at the Seattle World School in Capitol Hill, and a weekly medical clinic at Asian Counseling and Referral Service in South Seattle. In late 2013, ICHS launched a mobile dental clinic serving students at 10 high schools and middle schools in Seattle. And on May 1, 2014, ICHS opened a new 6,500 sq. ft. clinic in the ethnically-diverse Crossroads area of Bellevue.
The Shoreline clinic will be the seventh and largest service site for ICHS. A 2007 feasibility study, updated in 2010, had pinpointed the urgent need for a clinic in Shoreline. The recent expansion in Medicaid and establishment of the State Health Benefits Exchange strengthened the impetus to move forward.
Teresita Batayola, ICHS CEO, said the rapid expansion of ICHS mirrors the growth of the immigrant and refugee population throughout the region.
“As we move into our fifth decade of service, we will continue to adapt to the changing times and provide services in places where they are most needed,” Batayola said. “At the same time, we continue to be inspired by the same principles of access that drove the volunteers and community activists who first formed the tiny free storefront clinic 41 years ago.”
Armilito Pangilinan, a board member of ICHS and Shoreline resident, says he’s thrilled to see the “handsome” new clinic rising out of the ground. His 83-year-old mother has been a patient of ICHS for 14 years. “I will no longer need to take a whole morning off work and drive all the way down to Seattle’s International District for my mom to see her provider,” he said.
Joyce Chin, a board member of the ICHS Foundation, who also lives in Shoreline, said she knows first-hand about the challenges of getting accessible health care.
“As a kid growing up in suburban Los Angeles, a visit to the doctor was a major ordeal,” Chin said. “My parents required a Toisanese-speaking doctor, and the few available all worked in Chinatown, an hour-and-a-half drive from where we lived. Both my parents worked long hours and it was a major sacrifice for one or both to take off from work for a doctor’s appointment. I’m glad the times are changing though.”
Chin has been going door-to-door over the past year to tell local businesses about the new clinic. “Most people in this area are not yet familiar with ICHS and what benefits it brings to our community,” Shin said. “I’m hoping to change that perception.”
One person who doesn’t need much convincing is Shoreline Mayor Shari Winstead. She said the new clinic will bolster the City’s efforts to “bring jobs to Shoreline, make Aurora a safe and thriving corridor and serve the traditionally underserved populations.”
Winstead said she predicts that the ICHS clinic space will quickly become an “important community gathering place.”
In addition to traditional core health care services, there will be room for other activities. The Asian “outdoor reflection garden” and two separate display galleries—in the first floor medical waiting area and in the second floor dental waiting area—will provide space for interactive exhibitions and public programs.
Last year, ICHS began discussions with the Shoreline Historical Museum and the Shoreline-Lake Forest Park Arts Council, forming a partnership to develop local exhibitions after the clinic opens.
Vicki Stiles, executive director of the Museum said: “The opening of ICHS in the Shoreline community is a historic moment, marking a certain coming of age of an area that has been steadily forging a bond of cultural diversity for the last fifty years.”
Fred Wong, executive director of the Arts Council, added: “In essence, what we are trying to achieve is the same. It is better health, whether it is of the mind, body, or spirit. ICHS will be a wonderful partner with us to connect with community members and their creative spirit.”
Shoreline resident Randi Sibonga said she’s been awaiting the grand opening for a long time.
“My late dad was an orphan raised in foster and group homes in Seattle,” Sibonga said. Although Sibonga’s father didn’t talk much about the health care struggles of his own parents (his mother died in childbirth and his father died after suffering multiple illnesses), he did tell Sibonga about his many hospitalizations for untreated ailments such as rickets, asthma, and eczema and the compassion of the health care workers who treated him.
“Having access to good health care would have made a big, big difference in the quality of life for my dad and his generation,” Sibonga said. “That’s why I’m so excited about this new clinic coming to my neighborhood. There are so many families in my community who need and deserve this kind of quality essential care. Now it’s finally arrived.”
Disclosure: Ron Chew is International Examiner board advisor and the director of the ICHS Foundation.